National conference told Indigenous cultural values must be considered in water management 


A Charles Darwin University (CDU) researcher with the School of Australian Indigenous Knowledge Systems has told a National Water Education Conference how Aboriginal people in the Anmatyerr region of Central Australia are starting to be heard on the cultural values of water.

Lucas Jordan and two of his Indigenous co-researchers Nathaniel Dixon and Greedy Campbell made a presentation on the Anmatyerr Kwaty (water) Project to the Australian Water Association’s conference in Alice Springs last week.

The project, which is funded by Land and Water Australia, the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre and CDU, was started in September 2004 and will run until the end of 2007.

While the project is aimed at establishing new governance arrangements for the water-rich region which take into account cultural values, the focus of the conference presentation was on the project’s education component.

“We’re working with schools on Waterwatch projects as well as the Certificate I in Resource Management through CDU in Ti Tree. At Laramba, people are doing the Certificate I in Conservation and Land Management to build capacity across the regional area,” Mr Jordan said.

Mr Jordan said the project was working with Anmatyerr elders to bring a cultural element to the education process.

The conference heard through a multimedia presentation about the cultural significance of some of the water sites in the region. The presenters explained how western water management practises and traditional knowledge were creating a greater appreciation of water values which would lead to sustainable livelihoods in the future.

“A lot of elders are saying they want culturally-relevant livelihoods related to land and water for future generations and this project is about finding that mix of natural resource management and cultural resource management.” Mr Jordan said.

He said through the project, the young Anmatyerr co-researchers had become an important conduit between organisations and government departments and the traditional elders.

“This is about supporting people’s capacity to engage in discussion about future water use. Anmatyerr people have their own lands and waters and any activity that goes on needs to respect these people.”

Other CDU presenters at the conference included:

Eric Valentine – Foundation Professor of Civil Engineering
Postgraduate education in water engineering: past and future.

Robert Wasson – Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research
Why isn’t systems thinking popular in catchment management and NRM education?

Michael Douglas – Senior Lecturer, Environmental Research
Collaborative research and education: fish and river flows in the wet-dry tropics and Educating tropical land and water managers through riparian assessment training.

Ian Dixon – Research Associate, Tropical Savannas CRC
Educating tropical land and water managers through riparian assessment training.